Startups in Southeast Asia are ensuring that the booming digital economy, set to reach USD 300 billion by 2026, continues moving at pace. The region is in the enviable position of having tech-savvy citizens, pervasive smartphone usage, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an innovative approach to business. The digital transformation approach has pushed more people to pursue business opportunities online, solving the needs facing many Southeast Asians.
5 steps on how to build an ecommerce business in Southeast Asia
Below we look at some of the eCommerce startups getting much-deserved attention in 2023.
Singapore-based Una Brands makes it easier for founders to sell their businesses within a few weeks. The company also provides growth capital to build brands, eCommerce guidance to scale the brand, and data insights and automation to make the brand competitive. Its senior team has over ten years of experience in eCommerce, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and data analytics.
Thus far, Una Brands has raised USD 115 million, with the most recent funding coming from the Northstar Group in March in a Series C round. Additional investors in various investment rounds included Alpha JWC Ventures, White Star Capital, 500 Global, and others. The company is using its funding on regional expansion and acquiring eCommerce brands.
Indonesia-based Sirclo is an eCommerce platform helping businesses to build online stores and access eCommerce solutions like Connexi to make sales and run their stores effectively. Its solutions work for brands of all sizes and offer a unified management dashboard for controlling different aspects of a business. Moreover, it continues to develop new solutions to enable companies to achieve an omnichannel commerce strategy.
Sirclo’s total funding is USD 132.7 million from investors such as Qverse, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, East Ventures, and others. The company will use these funds to grow its business and enhance its digital solutions.
Malaysia-based iMotorbike is a marketplace for buying and selling new and used motorcycles. It offers insurance, loan options, a variety of motorcycle brands, and a platform for displaying, promoting, and trading motorcycles. The website also has a detailed blog that discusses all things motorbike.
iMotorbike received USD 2.6 million in June and has raised USD 4.1 million in total thus far. Its investors include Gobi Partners, 500 Global, The Hive Southeast Asia, Seedstars, and others. With the economy and fuel prices being a challenge, iMotorbike is offering its bikes as an alternative form of transport to cars. The company will use the money to strengthen its operations in Malaysia and Vietnam.
Line Man Wongnai
Thailand-based LINE MAN Wongnai (LMWN) is an eCommerce platform for businesses. The company seeks to improve the lives of Thai people through its platform by connecting riders, customers, and local businesses. In 2019, the company started converting into an Online-to-Offline (O2O) platform, whereby people identify products online and buy them in a physical store.
LMWN has raised USD 375 million from investors, such as GIC, PTT Oil and Retail Business Public Company, LINE Plus Corporation, and Taiwan Mobile Co. Ltd. The company continues expanding its food ecosystem services.
Singapore-based EkkBaz offers a marketplace with embedded finance for sellers to connect with their suppliers and receive wholesale goods. Embedded finance makes financial transactions possible within a business’s infrastructure rather than connecting to an outside financial institution.
Thus far, EkkBaz has raised an undisclosed amount from Hi2 Global Venture Fund, KeyStone Capital, Artesian, SOSV, and Enterprise Singapore. It will use its money to recruit more staff and to expand into other areas.
The future of eCommerce in Southeast Asia beyond 2023
While the eCommerce startups above show Southeast Asia’s great value and opportunities, the sector still has significant challenges. According to DealStreetAsia’s SE Asia Deals Barometer Report, startup fundraising hit a four-month low in June, with dealmaking dropping by 58% to USD 445 million.
Founders have had to reassess their organisational structure due to the current global economic crisis. The focus now is on attracting high-performance employees, having a talent recruitment and retention strategy, hiring conservatively, creating a flexible workplace, and ensuring employee welfare.
On the positive side, eCommerce solutions are usable in many industries. The changing customer expectations from the days of COVID-19 also create new opportunities for startups. Additionally, Southeast Asia’s 655 million residents provide a large market for trade, with their quick technology adoption making it easier for businesses to promote products.
Innovations like artificial intelligence (AI) will keep eCommerce booming. AI tools like ChatGPT are helpful for quick content creation, customer service through automated chatbots, research analysis, and more.
Finally, startups in Southeast Asia can benefit from the region’s tech revolution and particularly the growth in fintech solutions in the form of digital payments. Increased online transactions will drive growth by ensuring more customers have access to services and can pay for them conveniently, giving eCommerce startups in the region ample opportunity to grow and flourish.